After working with Hannibal food stylist Janice Poon on her selection of themed Christmas recipes last year, I was incredibly excited to hear that she would be releasing a full Hannibal cookbook. After many months of waiting, I finally got my hands on Feeding Hannibal: A Connoisseur’s Cookbook a few days ago and dived right in.
If I’m entirely honest with you, Feeding Hannibal is not a recipe book I will be using often. In fact, I’d wager that at least 95% of the creations featured in its pages will never grace my table, and unless you have a very adventurous family (and an equally open-minded butcher) I doubt you’ll be eating many of them either.
Foie Gras au Torchon, Escargot Bourguignonne, Tortilla Sacromonte – that’s lamb’s brain and testicles to you and I – these are some of the dishes featured in Feeding Hannibal, and although the book thoughtfully provides vegetarian and pescatarian options for many of its creations, they’re still not the kinds of things I will be serving up when I have family over for Sunday lunch. Still, picturing my mother-in-law’s face if I served up a platter laden with an entire grilled octopus is entertainment all by itself!
However, with Feeding Hannibal, the lack of practical recipes for the average home is entirely irrelevant. This is far, far more than a cookbook.
Rather, it is a book of art and of story, filled with stunning photography and pre-production sketches of the dishes that graced Doctor Lecter’s table over the course of the show’s three seasons. And I haven’t even mentioned the constant cannibalism puns and knowing asides worked into the text.
Every dish in the book is presented with back story from Janice about how it came to exist on the show, the reasons specific dishes were chosen for specific characters and actors, and the issues that certain dishes and kitchen stunts created on set. The story about Mads Mikkelson doing a trick with an egg made me laugh out loud, and I couldn’t agree more with the decision to serve Gillian Anderson’s snails with Mignonette Sauce – qu’elle est mignonne indeed!
The challenges faced by the food team on Hannibal were unique. E-mails from directors late at night needing ideas for how they might serve an entire human arm, finding a cut of meat large enough to craft a believable fully grown man’s leg, deciding what foods Lecter might serve a future victim in order to improve their flavor… These are not questions faced on MasterChef, and Feeding Hannibal explores those challenges in depth, using the individual recipes as jumping off points to discuss what went into an episode or particular scene.
The book also discusses staging meals in great detail. Hannibal wouldn’t dream of serving his meals without a touch of showmanship, even when turning up at Will’s motel room in episode one (“Apéritif”) bearing Tupperware boxed protein scramble, the food is somehow delicately garnished. Every plate he presents is crafted with stunning decorations which add to the theater of his dining room.
These pages provided ideas I found myself more likely to use in my own home as they can be used to make even “normal” meals into something beautiful that you would be proud to serve. In addition, there are guides to buying wonderful cuts of rare, exotic, and yes, often expensive ingredients such as Jamón Ibérico de Bellota – “the connoisseur’s ultimate ham.”
The food on Hannibal was a character in its own right, one that many fans looked forward to seeing in every episode. Whether an elegant and elaborate dinner party, or simply Hannibal bringing some chicken (we hope) soup to a sick Will Graham, no dish ever presented could be classified as plain or dull. For fans of the show, Janice Poon’s Feeding Hannibal offers a fascinating insight into the creation of one of its most important elements from someone with a unique viewpoint and many stories to share.
GeekMom received a copy of this book for review purposes.